To an international audience with a long memory, Imelda Marcos, former first lady of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, is famous for the thousands of shoes that were seized when her husband Ferdinand was ousted from power. In global pop culture, her name became synonymous with excess and greed.

To people in the Philippines however, she’s the omnipresent matriarch of a family that began to try to claw back political power almost as soon as they lost it.

Marcos plays a starring role in those machinations in a new documentary, The Kingmaker, by Lauren Greenfield, which loosely follows Marcos and her son, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, as he campaigns to become vice president of the Philippines in 2016. (Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, provided financial support for the film.)

The documentary is something of a bait and switch— it starts out as a sort of “lives of the rich and famous”-style drama and slowly becomes a tutorial in what Greenfield strongly suggests is a multi decade campaign of unseemly and allegedly illegal activity carried out by the Marcos clan in an effort to regain political sovereignty.

From one angle, this is new ground for Greenfield, who’s devoted her career to chronicling Western excess. She’s documented rich Los Angeles teens and aging French aristocrats, and produced a mountain of books, exhibitions, and documentaries about various members of the upper class.

Greenfield is certainly not in awe of money—most of her work is heavily slanted toward the evils of consumer culture— but cold hard cash has always been at the root of her work.

The Marcos family, in contrast, is certainly preoccupied with money, but primarily—at least in Kingmaker—as a means of perpetuating its own influence and power. Greenfield might follow Marcos around her Manila apartment as she points out her Picassos, Fragonards, and, almost unbelievably, a Michelangelo, and the camera is happy to linger on Marcos’s jewels and dresses. But when money is actually spent on camera, it’s on activity likely to gain votes.

The Marcos family is deeply embedded in the country's political firmament. Marcos’s daughter is a senator, and her grandson is a governor. Marcos herself is a four-term congresswoman. And so we watch Marcos driving through slums with stacks of crisp bills, handing them out wherever she goes. At stoplights, she’ll hand out bills; at church, she’ll slip cash to the priest; even in a cancer ward, her default is to push money into the hands of a bedridden child. But even though that money is a tool, it’s also, Kingmaker argues, at the core of the Marcos family’s political enterprise.

The Marcos family’s hidden wealth, of which about $4 billion has been recovered by successive Philippine governments, isn’t exactly a fringe concern. After a CNN debate between Bongbong and Robredo, someone at a press conference press asks Marcos, point blank, about his “hidden wealth— do you have it?”

For someone who’s presumably had a lifetime to figure out a compelling answer, Bongbong doesn’t do a great job at giving an explanation. “No, no. I don’t have it,” he says. “Everything of mine is very clear and uh …” trailing off until he’s asked another question.

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